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Stirring up memories


Remembering the day of infamy
December 1, 2004

Remembering the day of infamy


            Every generation has dates that will always burn in our memories.  We remember where we stood, whom we embraced, what we said when the news that branded our memories came. For many of us, no matter the horrors that have followed, December 7, 1941 will forever be the “Day of Infamy,” Pearl Harbor Day.   A day not to be forgotten in a lifetime.

            One thing, perhaps, distinguishes this historic day.  For the first time in history, people as a whole received the news first hand.  A radio, that relatively new instrument (national broadcasting had come into its own only in the 1930s), was in almost every home, every workplace, every car.  No longer did folks have to wait for a telegraph, a telephone call or tomorrow’s newpaper.  They joined the front lines themselves.

            And the radio did little but cover the story for hours on end—an early case of preemptive broadcasting.  One story said that in the first 48 hours following the attack on Pearl Harbor, broadcasters broke into the regular programming so often that one exasperated broadcaster announced, “we interrupt the news flashes to bring you a regularly scheduled program.”

            Several years ago, and again last month, I asked members of the Decatur County Historical Society to recount their memories of that infamous day.  The radio figured into almost every story.  (Some of these folks are no longer with us; I’m glad we have their memories.)   

Here they tell their own stories, starting with the young ones who scarcely knew what the news meant through those who understood completely the full meaning of the horrific events.

            Erva Drinkwater:  I was a five-year-old first grader in Pelham and not much impressed with “the news.”  I recall the grown-ups were pretty much upset by something they heard on the radio.

            Oline Miller Reynolds:  I was in Climax, Georgia.  I remember BEING FRIGHTENED!!  Going to neighbors to listen to the radio—hearing my mother praying that my brothers wouldn’t have to go!!

            William B. (Bill) Drinkwater:   I was nine years old.  My dad (Roy Drinkwater) was washing his car that Sunday in Bainbridge.  It was a beautiful mild day.  I was on the front porch on the swing reading the ‘funny papers’ when the news arrived on the radio.  I still can remember the look on my dad’s face as he digested that awful news.

Ruth (Presh) Brown:   I remember going to Grimsley’s Drugstore (for curbside service) on the square under the BonAir Hotel.  Sunday afternoon activity was a ride in the car.  We were listening to the radio.  My Daddy, a WWI veteran, was playing golf.  We rode out and told him about the bombing.

Gloria Coppinger:  “I was in Donalsonville at my grandmother’s house.  We children were outside playing when the adults heard it on the radio.  We didn’t understand why they were so upset!

Jean Attaway:  I lived in Denver, Colorado.  We had gone to church and later that afternoon heard on the radio about Pearl Harbor.  Next day in school we heard about the ships that been sunk and the boys who had joined the Navy from our school who were on those ships.  I was a junior in school at that time.

Eugenia Whiddon: I was coming home to Berlin, Wisconsin from the movies in Oshkosh, Wisconsin when we heard it on the radio.

Fredrick Smallwood:  I was at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, Georgia as a freshman.  I didn’t have a radio, but a boy down the hall did and heard the news.  It spread all over campus. (Fredrick joined the United States Army in 1943 and bravely served in the European Theater.)

Nell Hambrick:  I was in Atlanta, Georgia.  I remember returning to the home where I was boarding after Young Peoples’ meeting at Grace Methodist Church to hear the news on the radio that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Adelaide Wolfe:  I was in Atlanta, Georgia.  I remember hearing about the attack from a radio in a midtown bus station behind the Ansley Hotel in downtown Atlanta.  I was waiting for a ride with a friend back to Carlton, Georgia, where I was teaching speech and drama.  I had spent the previous night with my cousin who was working in Atlanta.  She and I had been the guest of a friend of hers dining at Wisteria Gardens the night before.  Wisteria Gardens specialized in Chinese food, but it turned out that it was operated by Japanese, and, therefore, closed down immediately on Pearl Harbor Sunday.

Pauline Brock:   I lived in my hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Our family heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio.  (Pauline went on to serve as a WAVE during the war.)

Louise Jansenius:  I was in Bainbridge.  After my husband left for work, at perhaps 9:30, I heard a report on the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.  Not much else was known, as the initial reports came.  But our feelings were of shocked horror and wonder at what would be forthcoming.  Shortly, the first reports were confirmed, and the report that Japan’s Envoy in Washington was discussing peace with our president even as the pre-daylight bombing had occurred.

Louise Harper Lee:  I was in Bainbridge.  We were at church—the First African Baptist Church on Sunday.  The congregation was very sad.  A deacon of our church made the announcement, and the church members all sat in silence for a long time.

            Next Monday, again, we will remember this day—those we lost and those who served with pride.  I thank all who shared and helped to keep these memories alive for those who will come.


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